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Trapped in a box

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Simeon is smart.

Simeon is smart and sneaky and deceitful.

Oh, sure, he’s cute. He can be kind and generous. He has a winning smile and a tender empathy that I think may be advanced for someone so young, but he can be a real pain in the… in the… in the foot sometimes.

I’m finding myself more and more frustrated with our discipline limitations. Specifically the ones regarding spankings and not being able to lock kids in their rooms. No, I’m not kidding.

Every morning this week, Simeon has gotten up at some hour before the sun, and quietly snuck into the kitchen to make a mess. The first morning started simply, I noticed something was out of place. This morning ended with sugar in the coffee filter, lemon juice in the pot and a battle of wills, which I technically won and technically lost at once.

I. Don’t. Know. What. To. Do!

He is now playing quietly in his room. Where he’s been for the past hour and a half. Where he’ll stay for the next four if he can hold his bladder that long.

So, while I’ve got some relative quite, I’m beseeching the faceless internet for help. Will anyone out there help me out of this box?!

Leo and I were both spanked. We grew up in loving, secure homes where we never felt abused or mis-treated. Both of us agree that the disciplines we faced were usually just and swift. And that’s our problem. We don’t know what to do since we can’t spank our kids. We realize it’s not the perfect solution, but we can’t seem to see past that one freeing swat we long to deliver.

We’ve talked with other foster parents who spank regardless of the rules. The great irony here is that Leo and I are strict rule followers, probably because we were spanked as children. For us, there’s not a lot of gray when it comes to rules on paper. So we’re in a quandary.

What can we do? You, you out there who has never raised a hand to your child. Or perhaps you, you who feels spanking is abuse regardless of how it’s done. Or maybe even you, who would love to spank your child, but finds it does no good… what can we do? What do you do? Any ideas?

We use timeout. I yell. A lot. That’s it. His days aren’t structured enough and he doesn’t have enough privileges to take much away that he’d miss. So what else is there for a three year old who needs discipline? Shout it out, I’m listening.


About Monica

Christ following, husband loving, children hugging foster and adoptive mama.

9 responses »

  1. I don’t claim to be an expert – by any means – but what works for us is being calm, strict, and empathetic. The calm is by far the hardest. Generally, my plan is to model the behavior I expect. I think one of my secret weapons has been that I’ve never raised my voice at Sprout. The book that is closest aligned with our plan is Parenting with Love and Logic.

    Essentially the idea of the book is to parent with natural, logical consequences to behavior and lots of empathy and love. The focus is much more on positive discipline and modeling. The biggest thing for us was getting rid of the concept of competition, fighting, who’s “in charge”, ect. Now the family is a team with shared goals and you are either in, or you’re out – as opposed to the traditional structure of parents are the bosses who lay down the rules and children are forced to follow. Another key feature of the concept is never letting your child make you angry (or at least, never letting them know that you are angry!). This was huge for us as Sprout loves more than anything to argue and push buttons. Now, I dont give him the option – it can’t be a battle of wills without two participants. Added benefit is that I’ve noticed he’s better able to control his emotions since we’ve modeled that for him. Also, I remind him regularly that we are a team: him and I vs. the bad behavior; rather than him vs. me.

    As for how I would approach the kitchen mess? Just because I can’t lock the bedroom door doesn’t mean I can’t lock everything else. The fridge, the cabinets, heck I’d even gate the kitchen if I could figure out a way. If a child can’t be responsible in a portion of the house, they lose thier access to it.

    No matter how you dice it, this parenting thing is a lot of work. And there’s no one right answer. But check out the book (they have a website as well) – people have found it particularly effective with strong-willed children like ours. I wish you luck in finding the right fit for you and for Simeon.

    • Thanks M2b. I have heard of Love and Logic and will be getting that ASAP. At one point we did gate Simeon’s room because he could not be trusted, but we took it down because he was improving. We’ll be putting the gate back up as of nap time today.

      Everything in my house is locked up. I’m telling you, this kid is brilliant. He’s the only one in the house who can figure out how to get out of the back door. I kid you not, when I want out, I call him.

      I like the idea of not showing anger, and I’m really working on that. I’ve come light years in a matter of months, but the fact is, I’m firey. Like a freaking’ ball of gasoline at times. Simeon is exactly the same. We spark each other and we’re getting better, but our passions to love and rage are so fierce that we’re often steaming each other… Which is absurd because he’s THREE!!!! I’m blessed by the work the Lord is doing in both of us. We’re completely different people because of each other and it’s a great thing… it’s just, as you said, a lot of work!

      Thanks for the insights. I’m taking your words to heart.

  2. A couple other books you might want to try:

    Suzanne did a training on the last method for children’s ministry. I think I have the handout if you’re interested.

    • Thanks Kelleigh. I’ve read 123magic. It’s OK, but I feel like it’s lacking in several ways. I finished thinking.. that’s it?! Surely it’s not all that simple. And it wasn’t. I’ll be looking into the other two titles you offered. I’ve been looking at a website called Their answers aren’t any better than the rest, but I did like a short series of articles called rethink discipline. It was two parts, and while it really didn’t give me any new information, I appreciated the perspective the writer had. Basically, take our evangelical views of life, the model of Christ, etc. and apply it to parenting. It could work, though I still have to deny my flesh (which wants to out temper tantrum the kid) and well, that’s the fundamental problem with being human anyway, now isn’t it?

  3. Where's the Party?

    I know that frustration. Heck, I feel it with my own kids, because we’re 99% committed to not spanking. (Personally, I think there are a few personality types where spanking is effective, and our son was spanked a handful of times as a 3-year old.)

    I yell too, and I’ve seen it doesn’t really do any good. It gets them quiet for a few minutes, but it makes me feel angrier and lousy.

    Things that have worked for us: natural consequences. In terms of discipline for a bad choice like Simeon did, we would make the child clean it up. Obviously, with a 3-year old, that’s almost as much work for you as for them, but it seems to work better than timeouts (again, for that age.) Sometimes, there are bad choices that don’t have easy natural consequences, like hitting; for that, we would have them stop whatever activity they were doing and do something else – assuming they were having fun with it in the first place.

    I keep my sentences/explaining short and simple. No long-winded justifications for the discipline.

    I’ve also heard lots of good things for Love and Logic, but have not read it (yet…)

    Finally, I’m still not good at it, but I try to keep discipline vs. punishment in the back of my head. I try very hard not to punish. Especially for young kids, and especially for children coming from abusive situations, discipline (teaching) gives much greater dividends than punishment.

    Oh, one more thing: Totlocks, the magnetic ones, are great! They are tricky to install at first, but once you do the first few, they are no sweat, and virtually child-proof. Just make sure you have extra locks (strong magnets) around.

    • Thanks for your input Party mom. I like that you mentioned the discipline vs. punishment reasoning. I find that I often want the three year old to really get it, to pay for what he’s done. I can be very vendictive that way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to mash his face in the sugar or anything, I just want to make sure that he knows that I’m really angry, disappointed, hurt, etc. I’m constantly checking myself to make sure my attitudes, words, etc. reflect discipline and not punishment. One of the greatest things I’ve read in my most recent quest for good parenting, is someone who said, I’m paraphrasing of course, that it was the love and mercy of Christ when she deserved punishment that melted her heart for Him. That one stung a bit, but was so, so good to hear.

      Every time I pray with Simeon at nap and bed time, I pray for me too. I pray that the Lord will teach me to love him with patience and mercy the way the Lord has been patient and merciful with me. I’m getting better. Thankfully, the Lord IS patient and merciful with me…

  4. just going to throw two things out there:

    1)spanking does absolutely no good on Asher. And as much as those two boys are alike, I’m kind of thinking it would be the same with Simeon. Now if I shed a tear, well then I get some progress. I tried fake crying a few times, but he so knows the difference. So when you find a solution to Mr. I’m-going-to-do-what-I-want-and-that’s-just-the-way-it-is please let me in on any and all secrets.

    2) When I read the first part of the post I couldn’t help but think he was just trying to make you coffee. Isn’t coffee your love language?

    • Jen, I haven’t tried the crying, though I doubt that would really work. I’m pretty certain spanking would only be a temporary fix, so I’ve given up on the idea. Especially since it’s not really an option anyway.

      And yes, perhaps he was trying to make me coffee, though I doubt his intentions were so selfless. While I do love a good cup of coffee, chocolate is really more my thing, so if I wake up to find him cruching cocoa beans in the kitchen, then I’ll be touched, otherwise it’s just a mess.

  5. supernanny?

    hey, if you haven’t checked out fiddledeedee from 3/7 you need to read it.


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